These were two vastly different experiences in this tiny country. Vardenis is cold, windy and icy. Talin is sunny with not a lot of snow on the ground. Vardenis has mountains on one side, and Lake Sevan on the other, Talin is on a flat plain. Vardenis is an established organization, Talin has an individual woman who wants to help the women in the villages. Vardenis is two and a half hours away from Yerevan, while Talin is about 50 minutes. I pushed them in two distinctly different directions, in an attempt to give each group something distinctly theirs, as I always do. In Vardenis we will do sewing, quilting and applique, while in Talin we will focus on crocheting a series of new, innovative items(which I am very excited about!)
In Vardenis, the need for a new sewing machine was crystal clear. I remember my Mom sewing on an old Singer like they have up there when I was a kid in the 60s, and even then that was a clunker. So I posted a photo and told the story on Facebook- and it took off. The Norwegian Armenian community circled around the idea of raising money for a new machine first, giving first USD 200, and then another USD 100. Then a U.S. diaspora kicked in with another 500. Within about 6 hours of me posting the request, I had enough to buy them a good, solid machine. Is that not simply amazing?
Yesterday I met with Laura Maas, the U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Vardenis, and we discussed how to set this up. She will tell the ladies in Vardenis that there is money to buy a new machine. They will come to Yerevan to help choose the machine(take mental ownership). A rotating fund will be set up in Vardenis, where a percentage of all sales of products goes into the fund(teaching administrative and planning skills). The money accumulated in the fund can be used by the organization to purchase what they need later, with the agreement of Laura and myself(organizational development through collective decision-making). My instinct says save towards more attachments to the first machine(piping attachment, for example), or buy a new machine that does embroidery. We shall see, learn together how best to do this.
Through this USD 800 in seed capital, we have the opportunity to create the basics of a sustainable production unit in Vardenis. It won't be easy. There will be bumps in the road(goodness knows there are plenty of big icy bumps in the roads of winter Vardenis already!). Still, this is what Homeland Handicrafts does- we start with a little something and we work hard to make it bigger and better, for the benefit of women in the villages of Armenia.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of the diaspora, both morally and financially. It would not be possible without wonderful women in Vardenis who want to work. It would not be possible without Laura Maas! Thanks so very much to each of you who are making this possible.
That was Vardenis. The first samples are due to be finished by January 15th. Can't wait!
Now, on to Talin....
I love my life.